The desire to try new products and explore new cuisines, coupled with consumers’ increasingly busy lifestyles, means demand remains high for innovative but convenient world food options in the UK food market. With the world food category worth £1.7bn, it is also a sector well worth retailers’ making the effort to find the right supplier, one with the latest good British shoppers are hungry for. Suppliers are sending a steady stream of innovation consumers’ way and getting them excited about an-ever widening array of new foods and flavours. “Collectively time-poor Brits are looking for easy to follow short cuts that enable them to recreate a taste of something they discovered on their holidays, at their favourite restaurants or street food outlets,” says Julz Davis, Marketing Manager at independent food supplier Tropical Sun.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not older people who represent the largest UK demographic interested in trying to cook exotic dishes with exciting new flavours from scratch at home. In fact, according to Julz, it is British people aged 25-34 who are mostly likely to explore and experiment with new and less familiar foods. Consumer confidence in cooking is simple to boost with easy to follow meal kits, food pairings, on pack recipes as well as the growth in online platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and cooking apps. However, this age group are also more likely than older British people to be living a hectic lifestyle and in need of easy ways to get started. Often one of the quickest solutions for them is to tropicalise their early attempts with spices, seasonings, sauces or marinades, something Tropical Sun’s portfolio is well-shaped to deal with.

“As pioneers in world food we have a growing range of over 90 spices representing various parts of the world from Creole, Cajun and Harissa to Jerk, Jollof, Pizza and even Salt and Vinegar. These pre-blended spices are a helpful easy cooking aid that offers an authentic taste at everyday prices. Supported by a world of recipes on we empower consumers to explore a new world of taste with an array of easy to follow cooking recipes and videos with the option to purchase online,” Julz explains.

Another indication of the popularity of the world food category (when done right) in modern Britain comes from the continuing rise of Asian-inspired brand itsu’s successful world cuisine grocery ranges. Natalie Sugarman, Marketing Director at itsu comments: “In a sector where almost 50% of 25-44 year-olds admit they are looking for new foods to try, the growth of itsu’s grocery range is an indication of the popularity of convenient world cuisine for busy, time-poor adults.”

Those ranges include the brand’s miso’easy, which is sourced directly from Japan and brought the first flavoured miso to the UK market, provides consumers with authentic, easy to use sachets of miso that can be enjoyed in several formats, such as marinades, soups, dressing and dips. Meanwhile itsu’s rice’noodles range is another first of its kind, featuring instant noodle pots with broths made from paste, not powder.

Finally, itsu’s meal’kits range unite authentic ingredients (many of which are also sourced directly from Japan, including itsu’s sesame oils and mapu tofu) into a recipe package. This gives consumers the opportunity to utilise Asian-inspired flavours that would otherwise seem daunting to busy consumers.

Meanwhile, with a rise in health-conscious shopping, some of itsu’s convenient-yet-healthy ranges of Japanese-themed meals and products are also tapping into a trend that is unlikely to lose momentum over the next 12 months, helping out UK consumers on more restricted diets, ones who are looking for new and different foods and flavours. For vegans and vegetarians looking to try new cuisines in 2020, itsu’s brilliant’broth, a Japanese style soup-base for ‘easy bowl suppers’, provides an exciting alternative that’s easy to get set up. The brilliant’broths range is the product of an extensive ‘ramen safari’, which saw itsu taste every ramen variant served in London over several months before creating the new range (including some for non-vegan customers) and is available in three flavours; vegan hero miso mushroom, hearty classic chicken ramen and authentic classic ramen.

Getting consumers’ more healthy choices, especially for those people struggling to cook adventurous, flavoursome food on a more limited diet, is a key goal that London-based wholesaler Merchant Gourmet are aiming for with their latest world-food inspired ready-to-eat, grains and pulses offering. The brand’s Aromatic Persian-Style Quinoa & Lentils is the latest addition to its range of ready to eat pulses and grain products. Using traditional ingredients (including kibbled onions and raisins), with a mix of quinoa and lentils, the new addition offers UK shoppers a truly delicious and satisfying taste of Persia as an eat-in experience, saving them both time and money.

“Merchant Gourmet is committed to following new flavour trends and using them as inspiration for their ready-to-eat grains and pulses, and it was the growing consumer interest in Middle Eastern cuisine that motivated their latest Persian inspired New Product Development. By mixing traditional Persian flavours with grains to make this more interesting for consumers, Merchant Gourmet is able to bring the flavours of world cuisine that are usually experienced in a restaurant to a home environment,” says Nyree Chambers, Head of Brand at Merchant Gourmet.

But consumers are also demanding more from eating in, wanting the same quality and flavour variety as an out-of-home experience at a restaurant or street food scene. The wholesaler is therefore also offering retailers a variety of other global grain and rice products to choose from. For example, cooked with red peppers and smoked paprika to give consumers a readily made, authentic taste of Spain, Merchant Gourmet’s Smoky Spanish Style Grains and Rice offering is a ready-to-eat pouch which can be incorporated easily into the home-cooking process as a paella shortcut. Another product of Merchant Gourmet’s ready-to-eat pouches range, Tomatoey French Puy and Green Lentils offers shoppers another European-themed cooking shortcut which drastically reduces cooking time and necessary ingredients. The product’s lentils are cooked in a rich sauce sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil with onion and garlic which infuses them with a number of French-inspired flavours.

When consumers do go out however, convenience is a key concern, especially for the millennials who are currently boosting the world foods category. This age demographic is all about experimenting with new flavours and spices, but they need to see these stocked in supermarkets first for the world food market to really feel the impact of this growing trend. British supplier Food Attractions has been working on achieving this in the UK with its growing Jake and Nayns brand. “We make it our mission to be out-and-about tasting the latest street foods on offer, which is where many world cuisines find their ground in the UK,” says Jake Karia, Managing Director of Food Attractions and founder of the Jake and Nayns brand: “From getting an understanding of what works and how people consume it, we can replicate the formats and flavours, and bring them into a chilled environment. Our new Jerk Chicken flavoured Burrito, for example, was inspired by our time visiting street food events. The Central American and Caribbean flavoured stalls were always popular, with huge queues. Using the burrito as an iconic format, we were able to bring the flavours and spices people want into a fully contained unit, which keeps flavours fresh and hot. The Jerk Chicken is our number one seller at the moment.”

The result is a range of products with all the flavours of street food, but which can all be enjoyed hot or cold, and need just 90 seconds in a microwave to provide a warming and hearty meal. Jake and Nayns’ new handcrafted, on-the-go snacks come in a range of four different variants, including; the BBQ Chilli Jackfruit Burrito, filled with pulled jackfruit cooked in a tasty chilli BBQ sauce and served with rice and kidney beans; the Mexican Chicken Burrito, stuffed with shredded chicken breast, cooked in a punchy sauce from the Yucatan region of Mexico and served with rice and kidney beans; the Jerk Chicken Burrito, filled with jerk spiced pulled chicken breast and served with rice and kidney beans; and the Chipotle BBQ Pork Burrito, crammed with tender pulled pork, cooked in a smoky BBQ sauce, spiced with chipotle chilli and served with kidney beans and rice.

“Our ongoing aim is to bring world cuisine ready-meal flavours to the on-the-go category by offering a more healthy, tasty and convenient option to what’s already on the market,” says Jake. “Following the amazing success of the Naanster, our first product in the Jake & Nayns’ range, we are confident that our Burritos will see the same love from consumers who need a quick and easy but nutritious meal on the move. We said we wanted to enhance our offering with other world-famous cuisines and really feel that we have done this here with a little Central-American spice!”

Key selling times of the year can also have a positive impact on the world foods category however, as the increasingly mainstream effect of once-minority cultural celebrations like Ramadan and Diwali goes hand in hand with the growth in popularity of world food category dishes and flavourings across the UK. What were unusual or curious flavours years ago are now becoming mainstream choices, with an estimated 10 million British lunch occasions now involving Indian food. The British consumer appetite for hot and strong flavours shows no sign of diminishing any time soon either, with the world foods snacks market growing faster than any other snacking category and now valued at £63m. The Indian snacks sub-category represents a 77% share of this expanding market, and also drives 90% of all world snacks growth in the UK. This is great news for Indian snack-maker Cofresh, who are highlighting the great sharing and snacking opportunities for retailers that major calendar events present, with key selling times this year including Ramadan, Eid, Euro 2020, Diwali and Christmas.

“To help retailers capitalise on these, we create bespoke seasonal WIGIG lines specifically for key calendar dates such as Ramadan (when selected snack lines incorporate dates which are typically associated with this religious period), Diwali (a time of celebration when we offer our best-selling Chakri and Bombay Mix in bumper sharing packs), and Christmas,” says Debbie King, Director of Commercial Sales & Marketing at Cofresh. “Continued consumer demand for new, authentic and bolder flavours, the rise of in-home socialising and our investment in the Cofresh brand [have] all combine[d] to help push the [world foods] category forward… greater consumer interest in healthier snacking is also having an impact. We’ve seen a significant increase in sales of our potato-based Grills range since the launch of new flavour variants (Peri Peri, Chilli Cheese and Sweet Chilli) each containing 30% less fat.”

Hot Indian snacks and sauces may soon have some competition from other traditionally spicy Asian cuisines like Chinese or Thai foods however. Among Thailand’s traditional sauce recipes is national favourite Sriracha, a form of chilli sauce, one variant of which, Vegan Spicy Sriracha Mayo Sauce, is currently made by the famous Flying Goose brand (owned by Exotic Foods). Flying Goose products are being distributed in the UK exclusively by world food specialists SOP International Ltd, who also distribute other well-known Asian brands, such as Aujmna Republic, Farmer, Khanum, Koh Kae, Nongshim, OKF, Vitas and Yeos. Britain’s love of the world foods category looks set to continue growing alongside them.

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